Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is a worldwide movement of growing influence that is helping victims and communities heal while holding criminals accountable for their actions.

"Restorative justice emerged in the 1970s as an effort to correct some of the weaknesses of the Western legal system while building on its strength. An area of special concern has been the neglect of victims and their needs; legal justice is largely about what to do with offenders. It has also been driven by a desire to hold those who cause harm truly accountable. Recognizing that punishment is often ineffective, restorative justice aims at helping those who offend to recognize the harm they have caused and encouraging them to repair the harm, to the extent it is possible. Rather than obsessing about whether those who offend get what they deserve, restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm of crime and engaging individuals and community members in the process." Dr. Howard Zehr, Distinguished Professor of Restorative Justice, Director Emeritus, Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice, Eastern Mennonite University.

Here are a few short videos that allow us to have a quick overview of the main aspects of restorative justice told us by one of the original developers of restorative justice as a concept, Dr. Howard Zehr:

Howard Zehr's Definition of Restorative Justice

Howard Zehr's Definition of Restorative Justice

Here is a lecture filmed quite recently (in 2019) where Dr. Zehr explores some of the challenges in defining and enforcing human rights in the 21st century, ways that the criminal legal system has contributed to injustice, and shares some observations from the emerging field of restorative justice.

Human Rights meets Restorative Justice

Lessons from Restorative Justice-Based Prisons in Brazil:

Awesome previews of the documentary UNGUARDED take us inside the walls of APAC, the revolutionary Brazilian prison system centered on promoting human dignity and the full recovery and rehabilitation of the person. Beginning in 1970, APAC founder Dr. Mario Ottoboni volunteered in some of Brazil's worst prisons. Seeing men and women frequently return to a life of crime once they left prison, Dr. Ottoboni decided to found his own restorative justice-based system. The results have been extraordinary: while the crime rate and recidivism rates have continued to increase in Brazil's public prisons, within the APAC (Association for the Protection and Assistance of Convicts) system they have steadily decreased.

The film states that 80% of former regular prison convicts recommit the crime once their term is over, and only 10-20% of APAC former convicts do the same. Simultaneously, the cost for monthly incarceration in the state prison system is significantly higher than in APAC ($800 vs. $250).

Official UNGUARDED movie trailer:

We also encourage you to read an article "Brazilian prisons see different responses to COVID-19" posted on the UNGUARDED movie website recently. Sneak peek: Regular prisons had a COVID-19 infection rate of 4%, which is higher than double of the general population, while APAC prisons had less than 0.038% infection rate. Simultaneously, convicts of regular prisons staged violent riots resulting in hundreds of prisoners escaping into the streets while nobody has even attempted to escape APAC. The article goes further, describing the daily routines of the APAC inmates and explaining why it is a viable alternative to a system that currently fails victims, offenders, and society at large.

The APAC experience can be conveyed in the following true story
(from the UNGUARDED movie website).

"An inmate notorious for his routine escapes from Brazil's mainstream prisons was sent to an APAC facility. Many were naturally skeptical of this decision and expected the inmate to be gone the very next day. (For there are, after all, no guards to prevent him from leaving.) But one of the APAC volunteers sensed an opportunity to trust the method and, just as importantly, to trust the inmate. The following morning the inmate was still there. And the morning after that. And the morning after that. Finally, some APAC volunteers asked him why he, an inmate known for escaping, had not fled the APAC prison. His answer? "Nobody escapes from love." His words now adorn the walls of every APAC prison."

The unique method behind APAC system is now practiced in 23 countries across four continents, including Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Germany.

Books about Restoratice Justice:

The Big Book of Restorative Justice: Four Classic Justice & Peacebuilding Books in One Volume
It is actually not one book but four most popular restorative justice books in the Justice & Peacebuilding series all in one volume:
  1) The Little Book of Restorative Justice: Revised and Updated by Howard Zehr
  2) The Little Book of Victim Offender Conferencing by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz
  3) The Little Book of Family Group Conferences by Allan MacRae & Howard Zehr
  4) The Little Book of Circle Processes by Kay Pranis
Each book is written by a scholar at the forefront of these movements, making this important reading for classrooms, community leaders, and anyone involved with conflict resolution.
Restorative Justice: How it Works By Marian Liebmann
This comprehensive guide to restorative justice is fully available for reading at Google Books! It provides an accessible introduction to the philosophy of restorative justice and its practical application in a wide range of settings. Drawing on many years of experience of work in victim support, probation, mediation, and restorative practices, Marian Liebmann uses pertinent case examples to illustrate how restorative justice can be used effectively to work with crime and its effects. Also included are sections on confronting bullying in schools, dealing with sexual and racial violence, tackling antisocial behavior, and community reconciliation after war. Whether in the context of families, schools, communities, criminal justice or prisons, the author argues that restorative justice is a 'seamless philosophy' which can be applied flexibly to meet diverse needs. Liebmann provides an international outlook, examining how restorative justice is practiced around the world.

Scientific Articles about Restoratice Justice:

The Effects of Restorative Justice Programming: A Review of the Empirical Research Results. - Department of Justice, Canada, 2018
Some quotes from the article above:
"It is clear that victims tend to be satisfied following their involvement in a restorative justice program. This is perhaps the most critical piece of evidence to support the development of restorative approaches."
"There are strong indications that victims are much less satisfied within the traditional court system."
"Research also indicates that offenders find restorative programs to be more satisfying and fairer than the traditional criminal justice system."
"There is some indication that providing offenders with a more satisfying experience within the justice system may help to lower recidivism rates."
"The costs of restorative justice programming are predictably lower than the traditional system. Volunteers typically mediate sessions, cases can often be dealt with in a few hours and most offenders do not require legal representation."
Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Principles in Juvenile Justice: A Meta-Analysis by David B. Wilson, PhD, Ajima Olaghere, PhD, Catherine S. Kimbrell, MA, Department of Criminology, Law and Society George Mason University Fairfax, Virginia, May 2017
Some quotes from the article above:
"The evidence regarding the effectiveness of these programs in reducing continued delinquent behavior is promising."
"Non-delinquency outcomes for youth are promising but inconsistent, with the exception of the youth's perceptions of fairness, which was greater for the restorative justice programs."
"There was also strong evidence for the effectiveness of these programs for victims. Victim participants appear to experience improved outcomes related to perceptions of fairness and satisfaction".
"Additional high-quality research on these programs is clearly warranted given these promising, but uncertain findings."